Italy is facing more political turmoil after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned Tuesday, at a time when the country faces a severe health and economic crisis.
Italy has been embroiled in political uncertainty over the past three weeks after a small party, Italia Viva, decided to exit the coalition government led by Conte. The rupture came after a dispute over EU pandemic recovery funds, and how they are disbursed, which plunged the nation into instability.
Earlier Tuesday, Conte, who has no political affiliation, told his ministers that he is resigning. He then handed in his official resignation to President Sergio Mattarella. The president has reportedly asked Conte to remain in a caretaker role while consultations take place over the formation of a new government.
However, the resignation is widely seen as an attempt to avoid a parliamentary defeat at a Senate vote later this week.
Conte narrowly survived a vote of confidence last week, but his government has been stripped of a working majority with the departure of Italia Viva — making it difficult to pass any major laws for the remainder of his mandate.
“Having failed in his desperate efforts to broaden his majority, Conte and his government were set to be defeated in a new Senate vote that is currently scheduled for 27 January,” Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of the consultancy firm Teneo, said in a note.
He said Conte’s resignation was an attempt “to ensure his own political survival.”
Mattarella now has to decide whether to give Conte the chance to negotiate with lawmakers again, looking for a majority that will allow him to govern.
“Conte’s calculation is that by moving early, and thereby avoiding a humiliating defeat in the Senate later this week, he would increase his chances of securing a mandate from Mattarella to form a new government,” Piccoli said. However, he added, “it is currently unclear whether Conte can succeed in such an effort.”
If Italian lawmakers do not reach an agreement over a new coalition government, with or without Conte as prime minister, then voters will have to head to the polls sooner rather than later.
Italy, the first EU country to be hit hard by the pandemic, has recorded more than 2 million Covid infections and over 85,000 deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University.